Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Forty Years Since Munich 1972

Today (Sept. 5) marks the 40th anniversary of the Olympic Movement's darkest day. And today in Germany survivors of the Black September attack on the Munich Olympic Village gathered for a day of remembrance and contemplation.

I've studied the events of Sept. 5, 1972, several times, starting with a college journalism term paper reviewing The New York Times' coverage of the Munich Massacre the following day. Also read the many books, reports and commentaries on the attack, screened "One Day In September" (the Oscar-winning documentary film), and recall vividly Bob Costas' commentary in 1992 in an NBC Sports special (aired during the Barcelona 1992 Games) for the 20th anniversary.

Of course there's also Steven Spielberg's "Munich" remake of the film "Sword of Gidion" about Israel's response to Munich.

Also, a couple of years ago through a work sabbatical, I spent several days living in a hotel at the Munich Olympic Park, just steps away from ground zero from that day in the Olympic Village. I've walked in the steps of the victims and their attackers, filmed the monuments built to commemorate those lost, and given a bit of thought to the recent brouhaha during London 2012 and the decision of the International Olympic Committee to share a moment of silence at an Olympic Village ceremony in lieu of a moment during the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. Here's my take on things.

Prior to the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, I agreed with the IOC -- rather than Bob Costas and the victims' families -- that the Opening Ceremony did not seem an appropriate time nor place for a moment of silence.

But then the LOCOG organizers did something I did not expect. During the 2012 Opening, they aired with IOC approval a video commemorating Olympic Family members lost in recent months (as I understand it, the video featured head shots of some folks lost in the Sept. 7, 2005, attacks in London). The video was brief, tasteful, easy to understand. In the stadium that night, I remember thinking "Why didn't they just put the Munich victims in this video, too?" Sort of like a moment of silence by a family around the table at a Thanksgiving meal -- a toast to those worthy of being remembered.

And I think LOCOG stumbled onto a potential 2012 Olympic legacy that could also help the IOC appease the Munich family survivors.

My mind was changed. I think every future Olympic Opening Ceremony should include a moment of silence for Olympic Family members lost during the Olympiad preceding the Games (or any Olympic Family member lost any time for any reason). Had this been accomplished for London 2012, the IOC could have commemorated Juan Antonio Samaranch (who died during the current Olympiad) in a brief, tasteful manner, and they could have included the Munich victims.

By permanently adding the "Olympic Family Moment of Remembrance" to each Opening Ceremony, it would air much like the Academy Awards video tribute to Oscar winners lost in the prior year leading to the broadcast.

A new tradition? A new legacy of 2012? Only time will tell. I know in all my future Olympiads the events of Munich will remain on the brain for myself and for millions who will always remember that one day in September.

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